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June 5, 2002

Tom Watson


JULIUS MASON: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. We are joined this afternoon by Tom Watson, the defending champion, Senior PGA Championship. Tom, welcome to Firestone. Some opening thoughts please and then we'll go to Q and A.

TOM WATSON: I've had quite a bit of history here. I've played here a number of times. My first success here was in 1975. I played in the World Series of golf when it was a four-man event. I guess Fox Television put it on, and I won that event by a couple of shots over Jack, I think it was. But always had a great deal of respect for the golf course. The golf course is one of the long golf courses we play. We play it as a par 70. It's a pure par-70 golf course. The south wind plays easier than the north wind. The north wind -- I think the course plays tough with the north wind. 18 plays into the wind, 16 plays into the wind, 13 plays into the wind and 7,8, and 9 play into the wind. 3 plays into the wind. Most holes, because most of the holes go north and south, those are a little bit longer than the southward holes that makes the course plays very tough. The state of my game is pretty good I'm hitting the ball pretty squarely and my biggest concern, as everybody's concern will be, hitting the ball in the fairway off the tee. If you don't hit the ball off in the fairway off the tee, the old folks aren't strong enough to get the ball to the green unless you are really lucky and get a good lie. The rough is very consistent and it's just tough enough for old folks to get the ball through it and to the green. It putts the premium on driving. The putting surfaces are a little bit soft right now. We had rain yesterday, obviously, and that has made them that way a little bit more than what they would like them to be. I'm not a weather predictor, but I watched the weather forecast and they say the weather is supposed to be very good for the next four days with a possibility of rain tomorrow morning, but that's it. By the time the weekend comes around, especially Sunday, the greens will be dryer, and firmer. It hasn't changed much from the old days with the exemption of some of the walls of trees which have been taken down to build the other golf course, and that has an affect on the wind. The wind does -- for instance, at No. 14, playing into 14 to the south there with a prevailing wind from the south, you get -- I always remember with the yardage there you feel the wind in your face pretty hard from the fairway, but as the ball got up to the green, the wind was blocked by the trees. A lot of people hit the ball too far there. Today that wasn't the case. We're playing in the south wind. It played the wind felt from the fairway. So there was no guesswork there as far as making mistakes, hitting over the green, which a lot of players did, back in the old days. From that standpoint really I'm glad to be back. I've played this golf course, as I said, a lot of times, and I really truly enjoy playing it. It's a great test and I'm happy that the PGA has done this and brought the tournament here. I was very happy they took it out of Florida last year, Ridgewood, as many of you might now. I haven't won a golf tournament in Florida and it was pretty nice winning a Senior PGA major championship. Are there any questions

Q. Is there anything else you remember about the World Series in '75? Anything specific or any shots you hit or is that too long ago?

TOM WATSON: I remember playing a shot into 16 over the water. I played a good shot and made birdie there. And it was -- I think I hit a 5-iron and hit a rough, and hit a 5-iron and hit it close to the hole and made birdie. That was the shot that won me the two day event. I do remember walking over with Jack on the fairway there up to the green, having a nice conversation with him. We had kind of a competitors conversation and he said, "Congratulations," up to the green with four putts to win, and he said, "Congratulations, but I'll get you," and I said, "Try it." My brash youth, something to that effect. We were just kidding each other.

JULIUS MASON: Question in the back?

Q. Tom, talk about the nice run you had between '77 and '82.

TOM WATSON: Well, it was a good run. First of all, I had a run there where I was hitting on most cylinders most of the time. I didn't -- I struck the ball well. I putted very well, and it was a time that I was obviously in my prime. I had worked hard to get to the point where I felt comfortable in the lead and winning golf tournaments. I didn't come out on the tour being much of a winner and I had to learn how to win. I lost more than I won early in my career, and finally I figured out how to do it. It was basically a lot of trial and error, but it was watching the best players like Nicklaus play. It was a culmination of working and working really hard at it and having the desire to be the best.

Q. Tom, how was the course playing for you now compared to how you played it before? Has the technology leveled it out so it's playing very similar to the way you used to play it?

TOM WATSON: We were playing from different tees. We played from a shorter tee at 3 and 6. We're certainly playing the 5th hole a lot shorter than we used to play it. A shorter tee at 9 and a few other shorter tees out there. It's much the same shots into the greens as it was before. Technology. I'm not hitting the ball as far as I did then, even with the better balls and the better clubs, but I feel that I'm hitting pretty much the same shots into the greens.

Q. Given the nature of golf today, do you think we'll ever see a rivalry like Nicklaus and Palmer had?

TOM WATSON: Sure we will. That question is similar to the question about back in the '80s when they say will there ever be another dominant player. That was the thought from the media and the public, nobody is going to dominate. But look what happened, the same thing. There will be that, but it would be nice to be able to be able to make that happen, but right now it's not there. Somebody will come up and challenge Tiger. But Tiger is clearly far and away the better player.

Q. To follow-up on that, how much did that rivalry make golf in terms of its popularity or do you think the popularity was there and it just enhanced it?

TOM WATSON: I think you always like to see the best teams play against each other, best players play against each other. Obviously, that's the Connors/McEnroe, Hogan/Snead. And then Hogan/Snead and Palmer/Nicklaus, you see it in all sports. It just doesn't occur all the time. It's fortunate when it does. People talking about Tiger, like I just said he's far and away the better player, but Tiger, his career is young, and will he continue? It's anybody's guess, but I think he will continue. Will he raise the level of the game? You wrote after the Masters that when Tiger is in the lead, people fall apart. There may be some truth to that, but there's going to be somebody to come up and challenge Tiger, and eventually there will be that head to head type of situation. That's my opinion. I think there will be. Who is that person? I can't tell you. I don't know. I can't guess right now.

Q. Tom, there is not as much media attention for the Senior Tour majors as there is for PGA Tour or a British Open, from a players point of view, is it a different kind of week psychologically?

TOM WATSON: Of course, it is.

Q. And if there is a way to explain how it's different, could you?

TOM WATSON: First of all, the field makes it different. We have senior players from all over the world come here to play in this tournament. You see people like Noel Ratcliffe, he spent a night in jail. What happened to him? Tell me about that. I didn't read the article. Come on, somebody wrote the article.

Q. I think his visa had run out, his 90-day.

TOM WATSON: His 90-day visa? What did they do, put him in the slammer?

Q. Yes. It's a great story.

TOM WATSON: Not for him.

Q. To read.

TOM WATSON: I bet, yes.

Q. To read, it's a good story.

TOM WATSON: Last year I played with Tommy Horton the first two rounds and fortunately he picked up a driver and started playing with it and it was illegal. He was disqualified for the second round. You have a lot of different field here. It gives it a different flavor, a more international flavor. The second thing is really it's the oldest by a long shot of the senior championships or senior tournaments. The U.S. Open or USGA started theirs in 1980. And that was the second one? Wasn't it? The Senior Tour started in '82?

Q. '80.

TOM WATSON: Basically the Senior U.S. Open and the Legends kind of started right then, but it really started back in 1936. That's what gives it it's importance to me. When I won last year, I started looking at the trophy there. I looked at all those names down there, Jock Hutchinson. I didn't realize he even won the Senior PGA Championship. I didn't realize the Senior PGA championship was that old. That gave it more credibility to me when I started looking. Wow, it went back that far. So it means a great deal.

Q. How much of a factor is venue? I've never been to Ridgewood. I assume it's a great golf course. Do you think there is more or less anticipation of the event because of the venue this year?

TOM WATSON: To me, I had great anticipation for this place. Firestone has always been one of my favorite courses to play. And as I said, I'm glad they took it away from the Florida course. It didn't set up too well for me and that one hole -- what was the name of that hole -- 5 or 6 or something like that, I teed up on that hole and I was going to make six no matter what I was going to do. But changing the venue is always going to make -- I think it's going to help the tournament. It helped the tournament getting players to play. It's more difficult, obviously, to change venues from an operational standpoint, because it's basically pretty new. Although they've had great events here, big events here, for years and years and years, so they know the routine here. But Ridgewood was brand new. They had to have whole new operations. And I thank the PGA for doing that. It's great to go to golf courses we haven't played before, like Ridgewood, and also courses where we played -- I have played, like this one, which I like. And next year Aronimink, I qualified for the U.S. Open in 1973 at Aronimink. I played a very solid round of golf.

Q. Tom, you mentioned about like a competitor rising for Tiger and you mentioned how early in your career you didn't win very much, and you needed to learn how to compete from people like Nicklaus. Can you describe what that takes for a golfer to make that step?

TOM WATSON: It takes 100 percent commitment. When I came on the tour, I didn't know what the heck I was going to do. I was hoping I could make a birdie or two a round. I started making birdies. I might make six birdies a round, but I might have three or four doubles. I was wild. I didn't hit the ball very straight. Two things: I hit the ball a long way and I could really putt. So I built upon that and I took it to a different level. My first level was make enough money to pay back my sponsors. Back then my sponsors guaranteed me $18,000 for my expenses for the first year. I made it through the first year and I spent $16,250, I think it was. Traveling the tour in the car and paying my caddie and hotel and food, and that was my first goal, was to do that, and I did. My last tournament in my contractual year was the Quad-Cities Open in October and I finished second there to our commissioner, former commissioner, Deane Beman, I won $11,200 and that put me way over the limit, and I could put some cash in my pocket. And if I could make the top 25 in the tournament, then I wouldn't have to Monday qualify for the next year. That was a goal. Soon after that I started making the top 25. I finished second and had the lead in a couple of tournaments and didn't win. But I finally won in 1974. I was thinking, '73, '74, you know, top 60 now, and that was my goal, see if I could make the top 60 and things worked out, and the second year I made the top 60, which prevented me from having to Monday qualify. And then the goal was to win. And from winning, see if I could -- the U.S. Open was right there, because in '74, '75, I had the lead in the tournament. I didn't win, but I figured, if I had the lead, I played well enough to win the U.S. Open. And my sites were elevated. And after a period of time, and a lot of work, '75, I lucked out and won the British Open, and another tournament. In '76, I had a lousy year. But in '77, made a slight adjustment in my swing and started the year off really well, and that was the beginning right there, '77. My career went to a new level there, but it was now -- I was out there trying to win, and win every tournament I played in, no matter what it was.

Q. Was it intimidating to play against Nicklaus?

TOM WATSON: No, I wouldn't say intimidating, but a lot of respect. I have a lot of respect for him. When you play against a quality guy like Jack, you didn't expect him to make very many mistakes. That's the thing about Tiger. If you play against Tiger, you don't expect him to make very many mistakes. But he will. And Jack did. It's just a matter of being able to do it better than they did, or they do. That was never an issue with me. I felt if my game is on, yes, if things work out, I could. It took me a while to get to that point.

Q. When you go out and play well on the regular tour as you did recently, what does that do for your confidence, to be able to compete against that level? Does it take it to another level?

TOM WATSON: That's a golf course I can play, frankly, I can play Colonial. I've played it 24 years. I had good experiences there. I always seemed to play it well. And again, knowing the winds, knowing how they affected the ball, what clubs to use, always helps when you have 24 years of experience, compared to the kids who are just starting to play there and they're making the same mistakes I made when I was a kid playing there. Experience does play a factor in playing courses like that. When you get on a course like Bethpage where -- I didn't try to qualify for it because I can't compete now with the types of shots I hit into, 495 yard Par-4s. I might be hitting woods in there, and the kids are hitting 6-irons. And I know frankly I can't compete there. If I play a course like Colonial, I can compete there because I know the length is not a tremendous factor there. It's not the big factor there.

Q. Aren't most of the guys relative to your age hitting the ball with equipment, hitting the ball farther than --

TOM WATSON: Yes, equipment is -- I'm not hitting the ball farther than I did when I was hitting wooden clubs. I carried the ball farther with a 3-wood than I do know, with a wooden club.

Q. Any reason why? Is your strength your ability then?

TOM WATSON: It's called age. 52 years. The wheels are getting rusty. They're definitely getting rusty. Sometimes -- you can put all the oil in there you want, but that rust doesn't go away very easy. The Advil works sometimes and it makes it easier to play and it's just one of those facts you have to do. Knowing your limitations, knowing what you can and can't do -- it comes from experience, obviously, to know that -- and I've had lots of times when I thought that's an 8-iron shot -- nah, am I trying to fool myself it's a 7-iron shot. I kind of laugh at myself. I know I can't hit an 8-iron that way. To carry the ball -- hit the ball out of the rough, I used to -- I was a really good rough player, and I can't hit the ball out of the rough at all anymore. No club head speed. It's not so much technique, it's club head speed. When you hit the ball in the rough here, as I said earlier on in the interview, you have to think twice about going for the greens. You have to put the ball back into the fairway.

Q. What kind of bad plays do they make?

TOM WATSON: Bad swings. He rarely ever made a mistake, a strategic mistake. He was the best at that. He was the best at taking the golf course and playing it as a chess match and moving from Point A to Point B, never putting himself in -- not never, but rarely putting himself in a position that I used to put myself in all the time. He said I had a great short game, but that was out of total necessity. I put myself in ball washers some of the time and had to get the ball up and down from that. I proved myself that I could invent shots and get the ball in the hole. And that's part and parcel of being a great player, being able to do that, when you don't hit the ball well. I remember my friend Byron Nelson -- this is The Masters -- Byron came off the golf course and he shot a 72, and he said he hit five greens in regulation. He shot a 72, and he came off moping, shaking my head. And Eddie Lowery his mentor there, said, "Byron, how did you play today?" Eddie had already known. He followed him a little bit. He said, "That was the worst round of golf I've played." Eddie said, "On the contrary, that's the best round of golf I ever saw you play." Byron looked at him. He thought about it. And he said. "Thanks, Eddie." He put it in perspective.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TOM WATSON: He hit it fat to the right, hit a wonderful chip. He hit a bump and run chip to the right, and knocked it up. He knocked it up about that far from the hole, and then he missed the putt. That was a mistake. Two shots and three mistakes -- he drove the ball poorly, as well, but his iron play was spectacular.

Q. Talk about the pairing with Jack and Gary and how differently you approach it now than you might have 20 years ago.

TOM WATSON: Frankly, I don't consider it any different than 20 years ago. We're out competing. As I said, when I first came out on the Senior Tour, the one reason I'm out here is to compete and enjoy the competition on good golf courses. We have all that here, plus a wonderful pairing. I can assure you that both Jack and Gary will be out there trying their damnedest to beat me. And I'll be trying my damnedest to beat them. It's not going to be very nostalgic because all three of us still have that desire to compete. It's not a walk in the park. It's not even close to that.

Q. Tom, we all know how great a program Stanford is in golf nowadays, but how was it back when you played?

TOM WATSON: It's not that good of a program. They had Tiger and they had one heck of a team. They won without Tiger the following year, the NCAA championship. I think Tiger inspired a lot of those players to play better. He had that affect on Mark O'Meara, I believe. Stanford's program has always been -- it's never been a factory or great golf program, but some darned good players have played there. Probably the best player besides Tiger was Bud Brown Elm (phonetic) back in the late '30s, Bud Brown Elm. My dad went there and saw him play, but the Bud Brown Elm stories are legendary. He never played a competitive round over 71. He had 63s and 64s. And when I went there my best store was 68. He was an aviator in World War II and was killed. I played that course a bunch of times. And 63 on that golf course, you just don't do that. And talk about the equipment back then. That was just the beginning of the metal shafts, or steel shafts, and a golf ball going sideways when you spun it and here he is hitting 16, 17 greens a round. I've never hit 16 greens on that golf course, never. Back then, they could play. Just like they can now. They will continue to play. There will be rivalries, just like the Nicklaus/Palmer, and Hogan/Snead. It will never change. They'll be there. But just like anything, like your golf game, you guys go out and play and some days it's good and some days it's bad. You might see Tiger here, and there is no rivalry, but there will be a rivalry sometime.

Q. When Tiger won the European tournament and came back to the United States to play I think in Muirfield and he didn't do very well there, is there a reason? I know you're not Tiger, but is there a reason for that? How did he win there and come here and not do very well in the next tournament like that.

TOM WATSON: I don't know. When I was young, and it still affects me, is the time change, five, six hours of time change. If you're in that , it's tough. It's not easy. Ask Gary Player. Gary, he said last month he was in Qatar, he goes all over the world and he plays these events, and the reason he could do it, he can fall asleep at a drop of a hat. Just like that. He gets on a plane, and just like that. When he's tired he can do that. I can't do that. If it's during the daylight time, I can't take a nap, even though I'm dog tired. But he has that ability to do that.

Q. Tom, is there a golfer out there now, a younger guy, that reminds you of you? Is there a next Watson?

TOM WATSON: We talked about that. As far as the golf swings are concerned -- I will go off in a different direction. The golf swings used to be unique to the players. You could see them on the practice tee, go down the practice tee and see, there is Miller Barber over there, and there is Doug Sanders over there, and there is Orville Moody over there, and Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. They all had unique golf swings, and you go down the line and they've been taught through the use of videotape and great instruction the swing of the golf club. They learned at an early age to do that. It's hard to say anybody is unique as far as their swing is concerned because I look at these golf swings and they're all really good. There is not a bad grip out there, or very few bad grips out there, and they hit the ball with the same type of plane, like this. It's different than what I learned. I had a unique swing because my legs were soft through the impact area like Weiskopf's and Nelson's. We all learned by feel, basically. We used a teacher whose eyes said, you're not doing this. You had to feel it. You didn't have the digital video with split screen with Tiger Woods on this side and you on this side and an overhead, and all side angles, and be able to literally just by a half an inch put yourself in the position of Tiger Woods and say, This is the way I'm going to try to swing the golf club, because he does it right. We didn't have that advantage, and therefore, we had unique and individual swings. Today you don't have that. But is there anybody on the horizon right now with the type of physical specimen Tiger is? He is a fairly tall young man and he's very, very strong and he works out. I see people who swing like him, but I don't see the physical stature of a lot of kids out there like Tiger. I think that gives him obviously another advantage, his leverage, because of his height and strength, and you see the younger kids, obviously they work out, but you give up four inches and -- four inches and centrifugal force in swinging the golf club with the height advantage, gives him an advantage. I remember asking Ben Hogan that question. I said, I asked him, do you think there will ever be a great tall golfer, and he said, "By all means there will be." The question though will be a 6'5", 6'8" golfer, and with the equipment the way it is, with titanium and light shafts -- back in the old days, if you had to have a long club because your hands -- if you're short like Ray Floyd, short arms and long clubs, but yet you add a 6'4" body to that, or 6'5" body to that, you couldn't make a club light enough, for even a really strong person to swing it with consistency. When Same Snead died, what they said about Sam was he was the first great long ball hitter, one of the first few. Bobby Jones, he drove long. He used hickory shafted clubs. But are we going to see somebody, 6'8", 6'5"? Yes, we'll see somebody in there that will have the type of swing that Tiger has.

Q. Are you saying that your pairing there is not going to be a lot of nostalgia? When you hear about Palmer not playing any more majors or Jack questioning whether he can compete, is there a part of you that wishes that they could go on or just in terms of what golf has been for the last 30 years or is it just reality this is their age and you can't go on?

TOM WATSON: No, it's just the reality of it for me. If you can't play, it has to come individually from the person. The great thing about golf, essentially, you have the ability just to say you're fired. You don't have to have a coach say you're fired or you're cut. I'm fired. That comes from each individual and each individual has a different -- will have a different feeling about when it's their time to put up the spikes. I know Gary is not -- Gary wants to compete until he's 98 and there's a lot of that in Jack. Jack wants to compete, too. He loves to compete. He wants to play good golf courses and compete. He can still do it. His body doesn't let him do it very well, but he can still do it. As I said, there's no -- there won't be a nostalgic walk for the three of us. We're out there playing the senior PGA Championship here at Firestone and we're trying to win the tournament.

End of FastScripts...

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